Read Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years by Israel Shahak Free Online
Book Title: Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years|
ISBN 13: 9780745308197
The author of the book: Israel Shahak
Edition: Pluto Press
Date of issue: June 20th 1994
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 341 KB
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Reader ratings: 5.2
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This is a very interesting and feverishly written book. The author is very well informed in certain ways and has an agile, that is to say not simplistic approach which gives the book an aura of credibility. Unfortunately, his compelling narrative is built on a very distorted view of Jewish history and lots of false information.
For example, the author is familiar with a number of important Jewish texts such as the Talmud and Halakha (Jewish law) but he doesn't understand how those laws and texts are and have been applied in practice. Quoting Talmud is tricky because its methods are probably unique to human literature in that they represent a complex matrix of conversations occurring over many centuries between many different people. Rather than a straightforward book of law that lists crimes,punishments, cases, etc., it goes into detail on how laws and practices and ranges of interpretation are reached. So its not enough to quote Talmud not only because the discussions are difficult to navigate but because you can easily quote something that is entirely irrelevant to the way a subject is concluded. Now Shahak knows this but he's not a skillful enough Talmudic scholar to do it successfully and so he creates many false impressions that when you know how the Talmud is applied just fall apart.
Likewise, he doesn't understand Jewish mysticism (cabbala) which he erroneously regards as a form of polytheism. In what feels like an obsession to brand Jewish civilization as inherently xenophobic, narrow, exploitative, both of Jews and non-Jews, and perpetually in cahoots with the non-Jewish authorities at the expense of the non-Jewish masses, the author disregards much of Jewish history where the impulse to integrate into the larger society was very strong. In this regard, Shahak claims that all persecutions except the Nazi holocaust were carried out by the grassroots mob rather than by government or church authorities. Mob resentment for Jewish exploitation (at the behest of the nobility) is allegedly the cause. Its hard to regard for example the pogroms that occurred around the Crusades as entirely initiated by the mob, when the Pope unleashed the Crusades in the first place and formulated its anti-Muslim purpose which was easily transferred to European Jews. Its likewise impossible to regard the Spanish inquisition as a giant mob pogrom when it was carried out directly by the Church at the behest of the nobility in their effort to regain control of Spain.
There are many other problems with the scholarship in this book but the effort to find in Zionism a basis in religion is a big stretch. The very recent development of religious Zionism notwithstanding, Zionism was always a secular nationalist movement lead mostly by bourgeois Jews with ties to the imperial powers. As such it reflected (as is the case with almost all nationalist movements) the desire of the elites in the Jewish world to enter the world stage on equal terms with other "nations". Prior to WWII the vast majority of Jews particularly in Europe were anti-Zionist either because they were religious or they were radicalized by the Jewish worker's movements most of which opposed Zionism on ideological grounds. Rather than Zionism following the logic of the Jewish religion, it followed the logic of all nationalism which invariably ends of fighting wars, conquering territory and killing people in the name of the nation.
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